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Honoring Greats From The Past

The career successes of former Eagles linebacker Bill Bergey and former Eagles running back Wilbert Montgomery are obvious to all who have loved this football team over the years. Both played key roles in the franchise's road to Super Bowl XV and both have long-enduring legacies for their football brilliance. Long after their careers are over, the good news keeps rolling in: Both Bergey and Montgomery were named to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2011, and will be inducted in a November 10 banquet.

Now, both of these players have had their share of honors. Montgomery, an Eagle from 1977-84, is the team's all-time leading rusher, a two-time Pro Bowl member and a member of the franchise's Honor Roll. He was a great, great player. Merrill Reese, the golden voice of the Eagles for more than 30 seasons, says Montgomery is in a class with Brian Westbrook as the best Eagles running back he has ever seen. Hard to argue that point.

And Bergey helped turn the moribund Eagles franchise around after Philadelphia traded two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick to Cincinnati to acquire the fiery, hard-hitting middle linebacker. In seven seasons here, from 1974-80, Bergey made the Pro Bowl four times, was a team MVP three times and re-invigorated the Eagles defense into one that was championship caliber.

Great players. Great guys. Great Eagles.

And another slice of recognition, 30ish years after their time on the playing field are over.

"The older you get, the more this stuff means to you," said Bergey, who has deep roots in the area and who is extremely visible to this day in Philadelphia and to Eagles fans. "It's all good stuff. Going in with Wilbert is special to me. He was such an important part of the team and he was so darn tough. What a great player and teammate ... I always believed that we could be a great team with Coach (Dick) Vermeil leading the way. I know he surrounded me with great players on defense. Without those guys up front, I wouldn't have been able to get to the football and make tackles and do all the things I did.

"I absolutely loved every minute of being a Philadelphia Eagle. There wasn't one thing I didn't adore about the game of football. I was able to develop my personality as a Philadelphia Eagle. The fans were fantastic. They were always so supportive. It was incredible playing at Veterans Stadium in front of so many fired-up fans who only wanted one thing: They wanted to win football games.

"I'm not big on awards. Football is a team sport, but when the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame called, I was so honored. So proud to be an Eagle, and an Eagles alum. It's a great feeling."

Bergey has never shied away from an interview or a conversation with a fan or a bit of chatter back and forth with an opponent. Montgomery, on the other hand, doesn't say much at all. I called him at least a half dozen times for this story and stressed that I needed a very brief amount of his time for an interview. No response. I knew it would be hard going in. Montgomery, now a coach with the Baltimore Ravens, has never been much of a talker. He doesn't self promote. He just goes out and does his job.

Both players exemplify great Eagles, past, present and the future. Bergey and Montgomery played through injuries and helped lead a generation of Eagles teams from the hinterlands of the NFL into the playoffs and, ultimately, the Super Bowl.

"Being part of that building process was so much fun," said Bergey. "We loved each other as a team and Coach Vermeil instilled that kind of camaraderie in all of us. We worked hard. We loved working hard because we had the greater good in mind.

"I tell you, I would do it all again in a New York minute. It was the experience of a lifetime. I feel good these days and I'm excited about this Philadelphia Eagles team. I see a lot of the same traits with this team as we had in our teams. I can't wait for the season. It can't come fast enough. The start of the football season is always something special. It gives me a tingle just thinking about what is ahead for this team."

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